Following the successful 1967 referendum, which empowered the Australian Parliament to make laws for “the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws,” there was a general expectation that we would finally become a colour-blind society. A society where the distribution of societal burdens and benefits would not depend on a person’s race.
The parliament would have the power to remove impediments that prevented members of any race to become full citizens of the Australian polity.
These legislative powers of the parliament were expected to cement the principle of “political equality” into Australia’s DNA.
It is a worthy principle, the implementation of which enhances the equal treatment of all members of society and confirms that, from a political point of view, they are deemed to be of equal standing.
But the promise of “political equality” gradually weakened over time, and the demise of the principle of equal treatment accelerated after the adoption of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
A growing Indigenous industry resulted in the establishment of expensive but failing quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos). These developments have confirmed that a colour-blind society is merely a lofty aspiration, easily punctured or extinguished by the ruling elites, who now advocate for a more radical form of equality—equality of results or outcomes.
This trend has now resulted in the federal government pushing for the entrenchment in the Australian Constitution of an Indigenous “Voice,” the establishment of which was foreshadowed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
More Details Please
While details on the powers, composition, and procedures of the Voice are carefully withheld from the public, governments around Australia are assiduously promoting the proposal.
Fairness demands that, whenever a referendum is organised, the “yes” and “no” campaigns receive equal funding, with donations made to either side to be fully tax-deductible, and people are given an impartial exposé of the implications and consequences of both votes.
However, none of this appears to be happening with regard to the Voice. Devoid of detail, it is impossible for electors to meaningfully exercise their right to vote in a referendum.
The unfairness of the process, in itself, is a sufficient reason to reject the government’s proposal.
Proponents of the Voice have argued that it is a “modest” proposal.
For example, on Jan. 26, against a background of left-wing demonstrators protesting for constitutional recognition at “Invasion Day” rallies, Prime Minster Anthony Albanese said:
“Across the country, every state premier, every chief minister, is supporting Yes at this referendum because this is about progress going forward. It is about reconciliation. It’s not a radical proposition … this is a mainstream proposition.”
However, political nous indicates and experience confirms that whenever government officials talk about “modest” reform, they are usually trying to hide the monumental and disruptive impact which the proposal, if successful, will have on society.
People are told that the Voice is merely an advisory body that would not have any decision-making power. But what does “advice” mean?
Does it mean that the executive and/or the parliament merely have to ask for advice, or does it mean that the Voice must actually give advice?
If the latter applies, the Voice could easily frustrate the legislative agenda of the government simply by adopting the convenient device of not giving an opinion at all. In that case, the Voice would be able to arrogate to itself the power to veto proposed laws, effectively becoming a third chamber of parliament.
Is This Going Forwards or Backwards?
Australians have also been told that advice would only be asked in connection with proposed laws that have an impact on Indigenous Australians.
This is a disingenuous argument because all legislation adopted by parliament applies to all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. So, it follows that advice would have to be asked whenever parliament wants to adopt legislation, and as a result, Australia could find itself in administrative and legislative gridlock.
Any failure by the legislative and executive branches of government to seek the advice of the Voice may well be challenged in the High Court. The Voice members may seek activist judges who claim that it should have been consulted, causing further delays and confusion and increasing judicial activism.
The Voice represents the triumph of symbolism over substance. These days, politicians are prepared to spend millions of dollars on meaningless symbolism and flaunt it as “social progress,” like permanently raising the Aboriginal flag over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Is it believable that the Voice will make a measurable difference for Indigenous Australians? Will it curb the riots and crime spree in Alice Springs? Reduce drug addictions? Eliminate child abuse? Decrease alcohol dependency? Stop spousal abuse? Lead to longevity? Result in better health outcomes? Improve education?
In this context, former Senator Eric Abetz recently proffered his view that “Not one life will be improved by the proposed change. But if the funds wasted in pursuit of the Voice were spent on law enforcement and school attendance, a rapid increase in the wellbeing of our Indigenous communities would be there for all to witness.”
Abetz’s statement exhorts policymakers to consider whether direct aid to Indigenous Australians for the purpose of establishing businesses and improving education might be the better approach to lessen the dependence of disadvantaged people on an all-powerful state.
Will the Voice proposal, if successful, be the “reconciliation” so ardently demanded by the Indigenous lobby?
Keith Windschuttle, in an article in Quadrant, argues that “the eventual goal of the Voice would be to make treaties between the Commonwealth and what it calls the First Nations” and that “Its proponents don’t just want to keep their adopted title as ‘nations,’ they want to become real nations.”
If Windschuttle is right, the Voice is ultimately concerned about “sovereignty.”
By enshrining the Voice in the Constitution, Australia will be a country divided along racial lines, where burdens and benefits are distributed on the ground of race.
Using the language of Abetz, “What is being promoted as healing and reconciling is in practice dividing and alienating.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.